Foreign Affairs

I am a full member of the European Parliament's prestigious Committee for Foreign Affairs, which sees me working on wide-reaching issues between EU and non-EU countries. I am also a full member of both the Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula, and the Delegation for relations with Iraq - an ideal role for the Glasgow boy who grew up in Saudi Arabia.

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THERESA May’s official visit to Canada this Monday was a fiasco. Hastily organised on the premise of the UN summit in New York, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was polite enough to host his UK counterpart, yet no agreement on trade was reached. 

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First published in The National, 20 September 2017


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In a sad week, the outrage which took place in Manchester is almost beyond comprehension.  It goes without saying that our thoughts have been with the victims, their families and friends, and the emergency services.  Across the EU flags were lowered and people gathered to pay their respects and emphasise their solidarity:

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LIKE many, I was delighted by the result in the local elections seeing so many hard-working folk elected to positions of real responsibility in the service of their communities. It was great to see. But there was also the result over the weekend from France, where Centrist Emmanuel Macron won a decisive victory over the Front National’s Marine Le Pen in the French Presidential election, 66 per cent to 34 per cent. Good news for Europe, bad news for the fascists, even if the fact they were in the second round at all should give us pause. But a win is a win is a win, and after the seemingly endless gut punch that was 2016, we can be forgiven for focusing on a bit of cheery news for a change.

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First published in The National, 10 May 2017


Theresa May has not listened, her government has refused to countenance compromise and now we face the cold reality of the UK constitution.


LAST week was a rough one, I don’t mind admitting. Having to watch the House of Commons debate how, when and if the UK Government should begin the withdrawal process from the EU was horrible.

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First published in The National, 16 February 2017


This week, by a majority of 8:3, the Supreme Court found that the UK Government cannot trigger Article 50 without an Act of the UK Parliament. However, it was not all good news since although the UK Government lost the case the Court also concluded that they do not need to consult the devolved legislators such as the Scottish Parliament.

This is the cold reality of the UK constitution where power devolved is power retained. It also graphically illustrates that the so called "partnership of equals” described in 2014 is just political fluff. The full judgment of the court is available from here:

In response to this the UK Government has put forward a Bill to allow them to initiate article 50. 

It is pitifully short and vague. In my opinion it isn't a Bill, it is a blank cheque to the Tories. 

Reaching out to our European friends and explaining our proposition to keep Scotland in the Single Market is crucial. As part of this I delivered a lecture to the College of Europe in Warsaw. I lived in Poland in the nineties, when it was not a member of the European Union, and I know what Europe means to Poland. These were fascinating times and, in the same spirit, I want Scotland to remain in our family of European nations because we are better off.


AN estimated one in three women in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. I’m ashamed to type that. But just as the UK is pushed closer to finally ratifying the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, Poland announces it plans to withdraw its signature.

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First published in The National, 13 December 2016.


Liam Fox quietly confessed this week that he intends to try and keep the EU’s WTO schedules.  This means we will continue to have the same tariffs and quotas - so it's understandable why the Leave advocates want to keep this news quiet!


MEP Alyn Smith of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee has expressed his grave concerns over the recent harassment, arrest and detention of thousands of opposition voices in Turkey including dozens of opposition MPs, amongst which Kurdish HDP Co-Chair Ms. Figen Yüksekdağ who met him in Scotland last year.


This week I have been back in Strasbourg for a plenary session and got a lot of good work done. It was great to be back at the centre of Europe, working with MEPs from across the continent to deliver on the big challenges we all face.

The European Parliament’s resolution on EU-Iran relations was passed which marks a significant step forward in our approach to the middle east. You’ll be able to read more of my thoughts in my National column next Tuesday.